The Massage Experience
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Consumer Protections
The image of massage and massage therapy has changed markedly in the last decade, reaching respectability and acceptance as never before. Outdated stereotypes associated with "massage parlors" have been beaten down as more and more people try and appreciate massage. Research shows that, while some illegal and unsavory operations continue to appropriate massage terminology to advertise their services, the effects of this name-hijacking have been overcome to a large degree.

As the field has become more professional and the body of knowledge has grown substantially, consumers can be reassured by the many protections afforded them when they use the services of ABMP members. Consumers should feel confident as never before:
  • Fourteen percent of U.S. adults visited a massage therapist in 2008, and 38 percent have received a professional massage sometime in their life.
  • Consumers in 2008 had an overwhelmingly positive response to a massage, with 69 percent reporting very favorable feelings about their most recent massage experience.
  • The majority of massage and bodywork practitioners are licensed by the state, with 42 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories having regulations governing the profession.
  • As a condition of membership, ABMP verifies the training and credentials of each one of its practitioners and requires them to follow the ABMP Code of Ethics.
  • Practitioners who submit insurance claims for covered services are governed by many parts of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which is designed to protect the privacy and confidentiality of patients/clients in matters of health and healthcare. (Additionally, practitioners are often bound by state regulations regarding confidentiality)
  • Consumers may research and request certain techniques or modalities and have the right to request their gender preference for a therapist.
  • The consumer and the practitioner will discuss the desired outcome of their session. This will determine which parts of the body require massage. A typical full-body session will include work on the back, arms, legs, feet, hands, head, neck and shoulders. The consumer will not be touched on or near the genitals (male or female) or breasts (female).
  • Consumers often wonder how much clothing they will need to remove in order to receive an effective massage. A misperception exists that massage requires nudity (it doesn't necessarily require removal of all clothes and is conducted in the United States with careful attention to draping). This misperception may stem from a surprisingly prevalent American cultural phobia about being touched. A Harstad Research study of consumer attitudes in recent years found that such concerns arose most often among males aged 55-plus.
  • Techniques are traditionally performed with the client unclothed; however, it is entirely up to consumers what they wish to wear. They should undress to their level of comfort. They will be properly draped (covered with a sheet or towel) during the entire session for warmth, comfort and privacy. Only the area being worked on will be exposed.
  • The practitioner will leave the room while the customer undresses, relaxes on the table and covers himself/herself with a clean sheet or towel.
  • Consumers can and should immediately communicate any discomfort they might feel so that another approach may be tried. Professionals are trained to solicit and receive client feedback.
  • Massage, bodywork and somatic therapies specifically exclude diagnosis, prescription, manipulation or adjustments of the human skeletal structure, or any other service, procedure or therapy that requires a license to practice orthopedics, physical therapy, podiatry, chiropractic, osteopathy, psychotherapy, acupuncture or any other profession or branch of medicine.
  • Scope of practice — There are some conditions where massage is not recommended. ABMP practitioners are expected to know the limits of their scope of practice and to ask about specific health conditions to determine if the application of massage, bodywork or somatic therapies is appropriate for each individual prospective client. In some cases, the practitioner may need a doctor's permission before providing services.

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